Small Vessel Fire Safety
There is little fire resistance in a boat – timber, plastics and fibreglass all burn readily and furiously – once a fire has started it will spread very rapidly.
How to make your boat safer
- Fit a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector suitable for marine use.
- Ensure furnishings and (foam) insulation are fire retardant.
- Run wiring looms through conduits to avoid chaffing.
- Contain and vent battery boxes.
- If you must use matches, ensure they are safety matches.
- Treble check that cigarettes are properly extinguished and preferably only smoke on deck.
- Use an approved container for carrying and storing petrol.
- Carry Fire Extinguishers.
- Carry VHF Radios.
- Carry Lifejackets.
- Stop the engine.
- Turn off all heating and lighting appliance and extinguish all cigarettes and naked flames.
- Use a funnel when decanting.
- Ensure tanks vent directly overboard and that fuel lines have a direct shut off valve that works.
- Do not overfill the tank and always mop up any overspills.
- Secure cap tightly.
- Ensure that there is no leakage or spillage.
- Before starting the engine, first ventilate the boat throughout.
- Store spare fuel in suitable containers on the open deck or in a compartment reserved for fuel.
Using gas cylinders
- Fit a gas detector.
- Secure cylinder in a weatherproof container with low-level atmospheric vents.
- Use approved piping.
- Isolate cylinders when not in use.
- Ventilate thoroughly any compartment which has not been used for some time.
- Regularly hand pump bilges to remove potential low-lying vapours.
- Do not leave a cooker or any other appliances unattended if there is a danger of a draught extinguishing the flame.
- Hatches and portholes should always be opened sufficiently to maintain essential ventilation (where prevailing weather condition permits).
- Check that the valve on the empty cylinder is turned off before disconnecting.
- Do not turn on the valve of the full cylinder until it is securely connected.
- LPG – propane or butane – is heavier than air. If it leaks it will sink to the bottom of the boat and spread along the bilges, probably diffusing to form an explosive mixture which will readily ignite by a small spark.
Recommended minimum firefighting equipment
- Dry Powder Extinguisher 2kg capacity, regularly serviced and fixed on brackets.
- Bucket with lanyard.
- Fire Blanket.
Cooking fire safety
- Never leave your cooking unattended – turn it off until you return.
- Always use a proprietary spark type gas lighter, not a naked flame.
- Keep the cabin well ventilated to avoid build-up of poisonous carbon monoxide.
- Always check for the British or European safety mark when buying electrical goods.
- Use a trained marine electrician to install and service electrics onboard.
- Do not overload adaptors, keep to one plug per socket and use correct fuses/breakers.
Action to be taken in event of fire
- Call the coastguard on VHF channel 16.
- Use distress signals – flares, rockets.
- If the boat is moored, call the Fire & Rescue Service on 999 and notify local Harbour Authority.
- Tackle the fire (if safe to do so) but think of your own safety first.
- Put life jackets on.
- Isolate petrol and gas if possible.
- Avoid and alert other craft.
- Prepare an emergency 'grab bag' and life raft.
- Keep calm.
The following booklets are well worth downloading
- The Boat Safety Scheme “Fire Safety on Boats” Booklet.
- The Boat Safety Scheme “Carbon Monoxide Safety on Boats” Booklet.
The Fire Safety on Boats Leaflets have been printed in A5 size and distributed by the Port Authority to all Recreational and Fishing vessel berth and mooring providers within Newhaven Harbour.
More useful information can be found at:-